We all have blind spots. You know, those things others seem to know about us that we can’t see for ourselves, or perhaps it’s something we’re aware of in general, but we miss in specific instances, or we may be aware of our behaviour, but miss the impact it has on others. Whichever way, if we’re not aware of these behaviours or needs, they can trip us up and impact our interactions with others.
As always, the first step in doing something about a blind spot is awareness. And yet, having light shone onto a blind spot can be very challenging. It can have us questioning ourselves and our way of being and it can impact our confidence. It can absolutely feel like criticism, but it’s usually not. Really, it’s an opportunity for growth and personal development and as such, it’s a gift.
So how do we lessen the sting and increase the learning? I think there are a number of key steps:
1. Approach any feedback around blind spots with a learning mindset.
Be curious. What does the behaviour, approach or mindset look like in different contexts? That is, how does the behaviour show up for us?
For example, while I’m not proud of it, I know it doesn’t bring out the best in me if I don’t feel heard. This may show up in responses that are a little sharper than I intended, or I may interrupt instead of allowing someone to finish what they’re saying. The trick for me is to look further and see if needing to be heard actually shows up in other places that I’m a little less aware of. I need to be attuned to the signs that may be more subtle, but may still impact my interactions with others. This may be needing to finish a story, or being upset when someone interrupts me. Then I need to understand the impact this has on those I’m interacting with.
2. Create Space
Viktor Frankl says that “between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”
I think the next step in addressing blind spots is to create space. Once we are aware of a trigger, or of situations where we tend to slip into default behaviour that isn’t helpful for us (this could be holding back from saying what we need to say, it could be blaming others rather than being accountable, it could be repetitive patterns of behaviour with family members or colleagues), we then need to create the space to allow us to be more proactive in our responses. We can do this by breathing, we can do this by being curious about and observing our reactions, we can do this by acknowledging the emotion we’re feeling and then reappraising the situation and our response options. These are just a few of many options to create space.
3. Explore New Responses
This is where we get to play with new responses. Now that we know what we’re doing and we know the response we will get with our default behaviour or mindset, we can use the space we’ve created to think about some alternative options. We can give them a try and see what the result is. How does the situation change? How do we feel using this alternative approach? Is it more helpful for us? Is it better received by others? Does it help us achieve our goals more effectively? If yes, keep doing this. If not, try another approach. This is a great chance to explore, to experiment and importantly, to learn.
4. Practice Self-Compassion
Practising self-compassion isn’t actually a final step. It’s really something to implement the whole way through. Remember that no one is perfect. No one gets it right all the time and no one expects us to. And while some situations may not bring out the best in us, in most situations we probably behave very well and we probably do get it right. However, we are human and as such, we are fallible. What defines us is how we view our imperfections. This is where we circle back to implementing a learning mindset and the best way to do this is with curiosity and without judgement.
So, notice what happened and if it happens again, use this as an opportunity to identify your triggers and to play with new ways of responding.
Will it always be comfortable? Probably not. Will it enable growth, learning and personal development? Absolutely, if you let it.